MILITANT peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) ramped up their call for the ouster of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on social media, urging netizens to express their support by flooding Alcala’s twitter account @procyalcala with #alcalaresign.
“We are now using social media to send the message straight to Alcala and his Quezon Mafia to step down and be accountable for the continuing plunder of agricultural funds intended for farmers,” KMP Secretary General Antonio Flores said on Tuesday.
“We call on netizens to bombard Alcala’s accoun—@procyalcala #alcalaresign. The agriculture secretary and his gang’s plunder of agricultural funds are the biggest stumbling block to food security,” Flores added.
“The existence of Napoles nongovernment organizations [NGOs] in the DA’s list of accredited NGOs is a crystal clear proof of the continuing plunder of taxpayer’s money in the agriculture department. Worst, Alcala himself placed fake NGOs under his own control,” said Flores, referring to the Isa Akong Magsasaka Foundation Inc. led by Alcala’s head executive assistant and AgriPinoy program director Arnulfo Mañalac.
The KMP filed a plunder case against President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Alcala, and several top ranking DA officials allegedly involved in bogus NGOs and the plunder of millions of pork barrel funds.
“Those involved in the scam were using the hapless farmers and their miserable situation as justification for the release of the public funds they have squandered. Equally revolting is the fact that the agencies of the government, one way of another, facilitated, abetted and even directly twisted rules and regulations to ensure the successful pillage of public funds,” the KMP said.
Besides his involvement in the pork barrel scam, Flores said that Alcala also coddles rice cartels that were behind the recent skyrocketing rice prices.
“If recalled, it was Alcala who supported the claim that there is a “shortage of palay” which is in reality a maneuver to justify the massive and corruption-ridded rice importation. In fact, it was under Alcala that the scam of the half-billion-peso-Vietnam rice deal happened,” he said.
Flores also noted that Alcala has been dipping his hands into the multi-billion coco levy funds due to his plans for the establishment of “agri-industrial estates” that would have at its core a coconut-processing center, at least five of which would be established in major coconut producing areas. The coconut-processing center would cost P50 million, with financing to come from the coco levy fund.
“The Aquino government granted Alcala’s wish by including in the proposed P2.3 billion budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for next year a P305 million allocation for the establishment of “Agro-Industrial Hubs” in five regions, namely, Region IV-A—Calabarzon, Region V-Bicol, Region VI—Western Visayas, Region VIII—Eastern Visayas, and Region IX—Zamboanga Peninsula or P61 million for each region,” Flores said.
Meanwhile, the Alyansa Agricultura expressed alarm over anomalies in the DA and vowed to oppose the agency’s control of the P148 billion in public funds next year “unless a massive reform with private sector participation is instituted.”
It listed several alleged anomalies, such as the release of millions of pesos to questionable NGOs and POs because of the DA’s lax and poor accreditation system; the release of P117 million to NGOs and POs by the NAFC, a purely advisory body, which does not have the mandate to release such funds;
(3) The irresponsible release of funds from the DA-supervised National Irrigation Administration (NIA), with an annual budget of more than P20 billion. President Benigno Aquino referred to NIA when he said last July 2: “There are cases where the accomplishment was only 60 percent, but funds released were supposedly for a fully completed project.”
(4) The dismissive way in which DA treated the legally mandated budget formulation and monitoring role of the NAFC. It did not even allow the NAFC Budget Committee to meet for one year and three months, a clear repudiation of transparency; and (5) The refusal of a senior DA official to allow the participation of the NAFC Budget Committee in the investigation of the PDAF anomalies, after the request for a thorough investigation was given in two NAFC Committee Meetings.
“It is because of incidents like the above that the Alyansa opposes DA’s management of the P148 billion of the people’s money unless massive reform with private sector participation in instituted. Without transparency, there can be no meaningful participation,” the Alyansa Agricultura statement said.
“We fully support the DA if it corrects the great wrong it has done. One such action is to allow the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC) Budget Committee to participate in a thorough investigation on corruption, and file the appropriate charges against the suspected guilty parties. It should also institute massive and deep reform, especially in the budget formulation and monitoring process, where significant private sector participation is a necessity. This should be guided by a yet unformulated strategic agricultural roadmap to achieve global competitiveness, food security, and higher incomes for our small farmers and fisherfolk,” the statement added.
“If DA does not do this, the Alyansa states its strong opposition to DA’s control of the P148 billion budget of the people’s money in 2014. This is because the current system will spell disaster for our farmers and fisherfolk in a competitive global economy where other countries are supporting, not killing, their agriculture. If there is no significant change, then the government’s call for inclusive growth will be all sound and no substance.”
The Alyansa Agricultura is a farmer-fisherfolk coalition of 42 federations and organizations representing all major sectors of agriculture. It has engaged DA primarily through the legally mandated public-private sector NAFC.
It has also engaged the government on behalf of small farmers and fisherfolk through the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and the Agriculture Fisheries 2025 (AF2025).
Through these engagements, the Alyansa finds the DA budget formulation and implementation ineffective and defective.